Arjun Babuta, 17, still remembers the exact date when he first approached Beijing Olympics gold medallist Abhinav Bindra’s coach Col J S Dhillon. It was May 23, 2013, when the Chandigarh shooter first met Dhillon and wanted to train under him for the 10 M Air Rifle event, which has seen Bindra claim India’s only individual gold medal in Olympics. More than three years after that meeting, Arjun created history when he claimed the bronze medal in the ISSF Junior World Cup being held at Gabala, Azerbaijan, on Tuesday. He shot a score of 183.6 in the final before his elimination as Czech Republic’s Filip Nepejchal (206.1) won the gold and Japan’s Atsushi Shimada (205.2) claimed the silver medal.
“I met Dhillon sir on the insistence of my father and he advised me to try 10 M Air Rifle. This is an event which saw the dominance of Abhinav Bindra sir and most of us aspire to do well at the world stage. This bronze medal in the ISSF Junior World Cup feels like an Olympic medal for me and today’s score came in tough conditions. The Russian and Japanese shooter were shooting well. I was leading halfway through the final. It was my third international tournament and first ISSF World Cup. The medal will set things up for the domestic season ahead,” said Arjun, who is a student of BA Honours I at DAV College, Chandigarh. He shot a score of 620.3 in the qualification round and was leading up to fifth series in the final. But three scores below 10 in his last three shots saw him drop to third.
With his father Neeraj Babuta being Station Master in Railways posted at Ferozepur, Arjun and his family, who belong to Jalalabad in Punjab, shifted to Chandigarh six years ago. The youngster won his first medal in Chandigarh State Shooting Championhip in 2013 and became the Punjab Senior/Youth/Junior champion with a score of 593/600 last year apart from being the champion in Chandigarh state the same year. Last year’s National Championship also saw him winning the youth and junior title. Earlier this year, Arjun shot his best international score of 632.4 in qualifying round in Shooting Hopes Shooting Championship, Czech Republic, where he eventually claimed the silver medal with 206.3 in the final. “The score of 623.4 in qualifying came in my second international appearance and my score of 206.3 in the final in Czech is better than what Filip shot in the final today. Shooting scores in excess of 620 have been my target since last season and the scores have come in Europe, which is always tough. Whenever we got to meet Abhinav sir in the nationals, he would tell us to shoot well in different conditions and his words inspire shooters like us. National rifle coach Deepali Deshpande and coach Deepak Dubey have been helping us a lot,” said Arjun, who also joined Abhinav Bindra’s mental trainer Amit Bhattacharjee three months ago.
Indian shooting coach Daleep Singh Chandel, under whom too Arjun trains, believes that the youngster’s consistency is the key for his success. “His biggest strength has been his body position and stability. He has a good triggering style and has been shooting scores in excess of 620-622 regularly. Shooting more such scores will help his game,” said Chandel.